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Argentinian National Library

Buenos Aires, Argentina
1 of 18Francisco Cellini

To select an architect for a new site of three hectares for the Argentinian National Library, a national competition was organised in 1962. Among dozens of proposals, the architects Clorindo Testa, Francisco Bullrich and Alicia Cazzaniga de Bullrich were selected to build the new library. The avantgard design based on the "Brutalist" ideas of the time privileging raw concrete structures was characterized by maximising the open space on the ground floor with a park to be created around the library while the reading room was placed in the upper floor with views towards the park and the city. Much later the idea to turn the functional concept upside down was reintroduced by OMA's Seattle Public Library.

Similar to OMA (although they chose a different solution to the problem), it was Testa's intention to conceive the whole library as a public space. This is why he decided to hide the archives underground. After releasing the building structure of the weight of the book archives, he decided to raise it on stilts to allow free views and thus creating a permanently open access platform. The result was a building that Testa characterized as a quadruped and which looked "alive".

Despite the promising designs, it took almost ten years until the foundation stone of the building was placed on October 13, 1971. But the difficulties didn't stop there. Subsequently the works were delayed and finally - during the dictatorship - suspended. When construction restarted in 1982, it was for budgetary reasons decided to remove the front metal sunshades which protected the reading areas from outside light, a fact that led to the future unfinished appearance of the building, and can now make reading difficult at certain times of day.

The new National Library was finally inaugurated on April 10, 1992, by President Carlos Menem, and the transfer of all bibliographical material was completed on September 21, 1993.

The building has three underground tanks, two of them with a capacity for three million books, and one to store magazines and newspapers, with a capacity of five hundred thousand copies. In addition, the building currently operates the National Library School, founded in 1956.